Whether you call it entrepreneurship or intrapreneurship, the curiosity to learn and the desire to create new ideas can be applied no matter where you work. If you’ve started your own company or work for a major consulting firm, the basic characteristics of good entrepreneurs, such as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, can help you create value for your business, clients and teams.
After participating in ESCP’s Art Thinking workshop, Jolanda Burgers-Pas, Manager in Business Engineering at IG&H, and Isabell Schastok, Manager for People & Organization Transformation at Capgemini Invent, did not experience a revelation about how important entrepreneurship is. They already knew it was. Rather, they learned to think about entrepreneurship in a different way and developed tools to help them make decisions in uncertain situations. They shared their key takeaways from the experience for The Choice:
A new mindset to confront the status quo
“In the consulting arena, we as intrapreneurs tend to focus on management principles. We are very goal-oriented and know exactly what to do to reach those goals,” says Burgers-Pas. “But what if your goal isn’t clear and your environment is uncertain?”
This is where thinking like an artist and an entrepreneur can come into play. Like artists who consistently challenge the status quo, “we can’t just rely on the existing infrastructures – we also have to adapt them for a new purpose,” explains Sylvain Bureau, ESCP Professor of Entrepreneurship and creator of the Art Thinking method, in an article with the Financial Times. “How do we find new means to achieve new goals? The challenge is not to think about a new, perfect society, but to rearrange our existing system to produce new solutions.”
By applying the Art Thinking approach and the Effectuation Theory of Entrepreneurship, Burgers-Pas and Schastok learned to work from a mindset that allows you to start with what resources you have at hand, accept certain losses, embrace surprises, create partnerships, and control what you can.
“By validating the taken-for-granted assumptions and destroying the existing ones, it helped us to uncover unforeseen opportunities,” says Schastok. “Further, I felt reminded to try less to predict the future and apply more often the Pilot-in-the-Plane Principle of Effectuation, to concentrate on the activities that are within my control. Instead of investing a lot of effort in predicting the future, I will rather work on identifying my ‘means’ and building a ‘crazy quilt’, a network of self-selected stakeholders, that will help me experiment, to decrease the uncertainty over time, and to shape the future.”
“I firmly believe that we really have to adopt different skills in order to produce the improbable with certainty,” adds Burgers-Pas. “I learned that I need to use a different approach in order to become more creative, find more distinctive solutions and be able to obtain more enduring results. Rather than focusing on others’ needs or focusing on my goals, it would be more fruitful to put something of myself, my means (my passion, my expertise, my knowledge and network) into my creation.”
Manager or Intrapreneur . . . you can be both
“Today, innovation is not only a key competitive advantage for organisations, but also the ability to manage an organisation through uncertainty. The pandemic is putting organisations’ entrepreneurial ways of working and thinking to the test,” explains Schastok.
Companies need an entrepreneurial mindset in their organisation across all roles and responsibilities. They need more employees with the ability to see opportunities and willing to take the risk to implement them.Isabell Schastok
“From that point of view, I consider myself as an Intrapreneur, always open for new opportunities and change, ready to add sugar to the lemons of life and make lemonade out of it! Willing to learn based on failure and courageous enough to take a risk and experiment,” adds Schastok.
In Burgers-Pas’ experience, one of the common traits between both managers and intrapreneurs is the ability to connect team members and establish means of “smart collaboration”. “I try to combine different skills so that we are able to offer an end solution to our clients that consists of multi-perspective insights and leads to a more creative and distinctive solution in the end.”
As consultants, Burgers-Pas and Schastok work to help their clients build similar leadership skills.
“In our understanding, digital leadership roles combine various skills, attitudes and behaviours to answer flexibly to the VUCA challenges (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity),” explains Schastok. “We therefore enable leaders along 4 roles, Intrapreneur being one of them:
- Vision Translator: Carry mission and strategy into the team and create goals and enthusiasm
- Agile Ambassador: Form a high-performance team and ensure dynamics and motivation.
- Intrapreneur: Create the basic conditions for the staff and bear the responsibility and the risk to reach the goals.
- Data Advocate: Measure and control the progress and give input for data-driven decisions.”
“In order to reduce the uncertainty that our clients face, I am eager to help them develop more ‘art thinking’ skills and make sure they will be able to change their mindset to become more creative and find better solutions to the challenges they face,” adds Burgers-Pas.
How to become an intrapreneur yourself
Challenge your own mindset and start from a ‘’means-based’’ orientation (who am I, what do I know, whom do I know?).Jolanda Burgers-Pas
“When your goal is not fixed and you don’t know exactly where you are going, let things emerge from the means side. When you are dealing with uncertain situations, try to make use of the practices of effectuation,” advises Burgers-Pas.
“I am a true believer of the benefits of collaboration,” says Schastok. “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together! Think of the power of your networks! Reflect on your means and think about the following: whom do you know? Who can help you to better understand a situation/a trend or movement and thereby, to reduce the risk? Who can help you with complementary skills? Who might be able to introduce you to other value-adding stakeholders?”
“Managers always try to optimize the product market fit. This is certainly key but what about the fit between the product and the product owner?” asks Sylvain Bureau. “This fit is key as it defines the passion you develop for an intrapreneurial project. Without this fit, intrapreneurship cannot succeed. Art Thinking helps you, with a method, to make this link and create impactful projects that make sense for you and your company.”
For Burgers-Pas, the Art Thinking experience has also sparked a new passion: vlogging*.
“I started with my means (my passion for the topic of innovation) and I don’t know exactly where this vlog series will lead me to. I advise everyone to let go of your ideas and appreciate the new… This will lead you to different routes, you’ll meet new people along the way, and you will get a different perspective on the situation.”
Take a tour of the Art Thinking Collective’s most recent exhibition: “Post-Covid World”.
*YouTube channel where Jolanda shares the latest insights on digital innovation and entrepreneurial leadership.